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Failing Contracts and “I will start tomorrow.”

***Disclaimer: Yes, I am recently board certified in behavior analysis BUT I am at an assistant level and not practicing independently….yet! Having said that, the services I offer through this blog combine my trainings in nutrition and behavior analysis, but I am not practicing independently as an analyst through this blog…yet!

I’m back and a newly minted BOARD CERTIFIED Assistant Behavior Analyst. That’s what I have been up to! I studied for and passed my first boards. Afterwards, I took a (too long) break from my research. But, I am back and studying for my second (and final) round of boards!

It has been MONTHS since I last had time to 1) complete a self-study and 2) actually write about it. This study was a second attempt at a contingency contract in which I made a deal with the devil (Trump) that I would engage in a specific health behavior (no sugar in this case) and if I failed, I owed a whopping 500 dollars to Trump and the Republicans. If you missed my first contract with Trump, go back and check out that blog post entitled How Trump Improves My Weight Loss.

In that contract, I focused only on losing weight and not the actual behaviors that one uses to lose weight. And I was mostly successful although I since gained back a few pounds because I didn’t focus enough on actual health behaviors.

If we are friends on Facebook or you follow me on IG, you may have recently seen a post that depicted my recent failure with the latest behavior contract. I used stickk.com again and entered into an “all or nothing” contract in which I set a date for 3 weeks out and committed to not eating sugar.

I assumed this would go as the last contract went with Trump- that I would be successful. After all, who would give up 500 dollars over sugar?!?!

Well, apparently, I would.

It was the strawberry cake that started it all. I was 2 days into my contract when my brother had a piece of strawberry cake. I was just going to have “1 bite” and then “3 bites” and then “1/2 the piece” And then.

“I will start tomorrow.” And then.

While I am at it, I will eat this whole sleeve of Oreos because it is my last chance before I start the contract tomorrow.” **It should be noted that I had already begun the contract…..

Anyway, I had no “real” plan in place other than to just (“white-knuckling” it) not have sugar- no replacement behaviors set up or antecedent interventions. And as a result….even after the “I will start tomorrow day of cake”….I failed.

I had much less sugar, but I was unable to cut it completely. One of the problems is that I had no outside accountability or replacement behaviors. I only had myself

So, while “I only had myself”, did I pay the $500.00?

 

Hell no. And that is the beauty of being your own referee. In other words, I didn’t even hold myself accountable to the punishment.

 

*Sigh*

 

So, the contract didn’t work for me a second time. What do you think? Has something worked for you once, but then you were not successful the second time around?

And speaking of accountability, I am now in an 8-week group accountability challenge with KK Wellness. The owner is a behavior analyst! Check out their Facebook page for more information and stay tuned for my results! I have a good feeling about this one! 🙂

Sidenote: I am so excited to announce that I am in the middle of my certification in Nutrition to better understand the importance of what we put into our bodies! Stay tuned….

Mantras: “I love myself and I don’t give a ****” (Part 2)

I recently conducted a study of my own destructive thoughts, also called private events in behavior analysis. If you missed it, go check out Part One to see how practicing “self-love” through mantras and meditation affected my thoughts.

Part Two of this study consisted of two components, both inspired by Mark Manson’s book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. The first was a meditation called “F*ck That: An Honest Meditation” which I will link below. It pretty much encourages you to let go of the bullshit and focus on what is important. It only lasts 2 minutes and I tried to do it at least once a day during my study. The second is a different kind of “mantra”. It is about not giving a fuck. Let me illustrate by using the same example from Part One.

Incident: Lost keys.

Thought 1: Oh man, where are my keys? (innocent enough)

Thought 2: No really, did I lose them again?

Thought 3: Oh my God, I always lose my (insert explicative) keys.

Thought 4: You know what? It is because I am so unorganized. I suck at being organized.

Thought 5: And it is even worse now because I have a baby and I am single.

Thought 6: Oh my God, of course. I am single with a baby. And it is my fault that I would be in this situation in the first place.

Thought 7: God I am horrible at relationships.

Thought 8: Oh great! I lose everything, I am horrible in relationships, AND NOW I HAVE A BABY WHO I AM PROBABLY A TERRIBLE INFLUENCE ON!!!!

Thought 9: HOW DO I EXPECT TO RAISE A CHILD, DO ALL THE WORK, AND KEEP UP WITH MY (insert explicative) KEYS?!?!

Thought 10: I FAIL. AGAIN. EVERYTHING IS MY FAULT AND I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE G’S MOM.

So that (or something like it) is usually the tailspin I can send myself into over something very minor. With my new “mantra”, I stop with the initial thought and I say something like “I lost my keys and it sucks. But I don’t give a fuck.” If I were to continue tailspinning, I could say something like, “Yes, I am unorganized and I don’t give a fuck.” Clearly, I do care about where my keys are if I have somewhere important to be, but the point is I have to decide what my values are.

Hear me out here.

According to Manson, the art of not giving a fuck is just that- an art. And it is indeed quite subtle. See, what you have to do in life is to decide. Decide what you care about.  Who do you want to spend your time with? What do you want to be doing? What exactly are your values and what do you want to spend your time on? Simply put, we have a limited amount of fucks to give. Are you going to choose to spend your time berating yourself or others OR will you choose another value?

For example:

“I value how I speak to myself and others.”

Or even better- “I value not making myself or others feel like shit”. That’s a good one.

And if that is your value, then you have to change your behavior. If your behavior is tailspinning on yourself or others, that is.

Sidenote: “Tailspinning”- The art of going into a tailspin.

Manson gives another example where a woman loses her shit when a teenage cashier can’t accept one of her coupons for 20 cents. What does she really give a fuck about? Twenty cents? Or making someone else feel like shit? You get the picture.

As Manson points out in his book, he actually doesn’t believe in mantras because people who are happy don’t have to tell themselves “I am happy” or people who feel attractive or worthy of love don’t have to say “I am beautiful and worthy of love.” And that is where we disagree. Behavior happens. Thoughts happen. We have to choose. And there are those of us who have to direct those thoughts or else we end up in the habitual tailspin.

How did the data measure?  My destructive thoughts definitely decreased, but of course that only happens when the intervention is taking place. In other words, the intervention must go on! This is actually good and demonstrates a correlation between intervention implementation and my thoughts. I will say (very un-behavior analytic of me) that I felt better or more “at peace” with the “I don’t give a fuck” piece of this 2 part study. However, that is not measurable. 🙂

 

Quick and dirty graph of what is measurable below.

A note about the data you see (for those of us that find the data beautiful):

When using a procedure such as partial interval recording, the end result data are percent occurrences. This means the percent of the intervals in which you engaged in a behavior. In my case, I tracked my behavior every 15 minutes per hour. In other words, I ended up with 4 intervals per hour. As a result, the only percentages I could have as data points were 0, 25, 50, 75, and 100 percent. This type of data tracking isn’t the best representation of the actual amount of negative or destructive thoughts I engaged in. However, the amount is so high and rapid, a discontinuous measure was utilized to save time and “sanity”. 🙂 Also noteworthy is the fact that I had previously conducted a negative thoughts study several weeks before which could have an effect on the outcome, but is unlikely considering the time taken between interventions and the quick increase in negative thoughts when interventions are not in place.

 

 

meditationlink- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92i5m3tV5XY

Trump Pt. 2: When it’s time to change the contract….

So as most of you know, I was in a contract over on stickk.com where I essentially bet $100.00 a week (to which I would give to that sicko- Trump) that I would lose 2 pounds a week for about 7 weeks. It went well for about 4 weeks, but then something strange happened…..

I started getting too small. Something I never thought I would say.

Here’s the thing, I love being a girl with some curves. I had a curves before it was in style to have a curves (and also hated them) and then suddenly, THEY WERE VANISHING. A friend made a comment initially that I was losing my butt. I kind of brushed it off and decided he was wrong. When I looked in the mirror, if I stood a certain way, I could totally still be considered a thick girl. Around Halloween, my mom took a picture of my son and I and I was like “Oh no! Where is the thickness?!” But I also quickly brushed that off and decided it must be the angle of the camera.

A week later, I went on a trip to my old college town and saw some old friends WHO TOLD ME I LOOK LIKE A SKINNY WHITE GIRL!!! HA!

It is funny because I remember a time when I probably would have loved hearing that, but now? Now, I was loving my curvy-girl title. I couldn’t lose it. Plus, I was doing things that maybe weren’t the best health-wise. I was worried about a number on the scale vs. the actual behaviors it took to get me there. Mainly I was dieting less at the beginning of the week and then being very strict as it got closer to “weigh-in” time.

So I changed the contract (which you can’t do on the site, but you CAN do for yourself). Instead of the number, I started focusing on the health behaviors I was engaging in. I also started lifting heavy at the gym and focusing more on toning versus cardio and guess what? Within a month…baby got back, back.

In this way, I was able to keep my word about improving my health and actually focus on doing just that instead of worrying about the scale. And I think that is okay. In behavior analysis, we are constantly having to go back to the drawing board in order to improve and revise interventions AFTER data has been collected. I did the exact same thing regarding my own goals (in behavior analysis, this is a part of self- management).

My next contract with the despicable Trump will be just that- one in which I solely focus on health behaviors versus a number on the scale.

 

Oh and my final weight? My body has actually settled into about 3 more pounds than I originally planned for. And it doesn’t matter anyway- even if it was 13 more pounds, that would still be fine. Because I am engaging in healthier behaviors now and I am loving how my body is shaping up.

            

 

So tell me what you think? Does it help you to focus on behaviors or focus on the numbers?

Mantras (Pt. 1) I love myself and I don’t give a ****

In radical behavior analysis, we view thoughts as covert behavior or private events. In other words, our thoughts are actual behaviors that serve a function, but are also difficult to detect for observers because they occur inside of the skin.

One of the things I struggle with is obsessive, negative, unproductive thoughts. These are usually about myself and something I decided that I have done “wrong”. I mean, really guys.

I can go into a real tailspin….

Incident: Lost keys.

Thought 1: Oh man, where are my keys? (innocent enough)

Thought 2: No really, did I lose them again?

Thought 3: Oh my God, I always lose my (insert expletive) keys.

Thought 4: You know what? It is because I am so unorganized. I suck at being organized.

Thought 5: And it is even worse now because I have a baby and I am single.

Thought 6: Oh my God, of course. I am single with a baby. And it is my fault that I would be in this situation in the first place.

Thought 7: God I am horrible in relationships.

Thought 8: Oh great! I lose everything, I am horrible in relationships, AND NOW I HAVE A BABY WHO I AM PROBABLY A TERRIBLE INFLUENCE ON!!!!

Thought 9: HOW DO I EXPECT TO RAISE A CHILD, DO ALL THE WORK, AND KEEP UP WITH MY (insert expletive) KEYS?!?!

Thought 10: I FAIL. AGAIN. EVERYTHING IS MY FAULT AND I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE G’S MOM.

Now, clearly I have my own internal issues that need to continue to be addressed. But the actual behavior (my thoughts) can be changed. Sidenote: I could also have a designated spot for my keys. But then I would never use it. That is a whole other plan.

The reason I decided to focus on my thoughts instead of creating interventions that would help me get organized is because clearly my thoughts are out of control. The aforementioned scenario (or something like it) can happen to me over virtually any small hiccup in my day- especially since having my boy. I also have general destructive thoughts throughout the day without anything happening, such as while I am driving.
I recently read (as in listened to on Audible) 2 different books that have been helpful in turning this thought-train around. The first is called Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant and the second is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson. I know, interesting combo, but hear me out.

In the first book- Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, Ravikant discussed following a protocol that includes meditation and mantras. So I posed the question: Would daily meditation revolving around positive thoughts about myself AND saying positive mantras decrease my negative thoughts? The mantras consisted of thinking thoughts like “I love myself and I am grateful/worthy.”

I took data on my negative thoughts. As a rookie, I counted every instance of a negative/destructive thought at first and that proved to be exhausting (as in like 30 or more per hour). I then employed some different measurement techniques that take into account whether or not I had the destructive thoughts during predetermined intervals. My pre-intervention numbers were not looking good. I literally would have at least one (usually much more) destructive thought during 75-100 percent of the intervals. Yikes.

Thus I began the feel-good mantras and meditation. I played the same song with my meditation to strengthen my association and give my new “positive thoughts” an anchor. Did it work? Well, sort of.

Overall, the percent of occurrence of negative thoughts has decreased pretty significantly occurring in about 0-25 percent of the intervals. However, the numbers are not steady. In other words, the percentage can easily jump to 75 if I am not aware and mindful of my thoughts and utilizing my mantras.

Pretty much, that means this is not an intervention in which the results are easily maintained. Ravikant even says this process requires work and the work doesn’t stop. In other words, this is an ongoing intervention. It can get easier, sure. But “loving yourself like your life depends on it” is truly your life’s work. It is something you work on every single day.

And, if you are me, moment to moment. Depending on where your keys are.

Here is a quick and dirty graph of my negative thoughts throughout my study. Although the numbers are overall lower after intervention, I was unable to reach steady responding in either condition.

So after reading Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, I changed it up a bit. Look for Part 2 to find out how “not giving a fuck” might further reduce my destructive thoughts.

How Trump Improves My Weight Loss

*A note about this post: When I talk about rewards and punishment, I mean that loosely. In behavior analysis, reinforcement and punishment consequences have to immediately follow the behavior, but a “punishing” contingency contract has a delayed effect in terms of self-management. *

Let’s talk about punishment and contingency contracts.

I’ve been devoting some time to figuring out what sort of plan I can put myself on to improve my odds of losing the rest of this baby weight. I tried reinforcement plans in which I reward myself for my efforts, implement “replacement behaviors”, contracts, and punishment plans. Why have I tried all of these types of plans in a matter of months? Read on to see my problem.

In behavior analysis, when there is a “problem behavior” we often like to find a “replacement behavior” that serves the same function. So, if you eat while bored, just find an activity you can replace eating with, right?

Well, nothing and I mean NOTHING is as rewarding for me as cake. Or pastries. Or ice cream. Or Nutella. It isn’t really out of boredom that I eat these things- I eat them because they are good and because of the chemical reactions the sugar causes in my brain. The reward is pretty automatic for me.

So, when you leave the party lifestyle that I left and enter into this mom role, you need a new thrill. And for me- that was all the pastries. Give me all the pastries.

Here’s the thing, when nothing is as rewarding as the cake- how can I replace the behavior of eating said cake and eating it often? Nothing serves the same function or is as rewarding.

Cue punishment (self-management) procedures. Punishment procedures are sometimes necessary in order to encourage behavior change. In the field, most often we try to use every reward and replacement strategy we can think of before we introduce a punishment procedure. This is where Trump comes in.

Bear with me, I have a point here.

Ian Ayers, author of Carrots and Sticks (you may hear me mention him often), discusses the use of commitment contracts as a way to change behavior. His idea is that if you commit to something via a contract that includes a “stick” or punishment component, you are more likely to stick to your goals. He runs a website called stickk.com where you can enter into your own commitment contract. For these particular contracts, you put your money where your mouth is. In other words, you decide a certain amount of money you are willing to “bet” on yourself as to whether or not you will stick to your contract. You can choose a friend or foe, charity, or anti-charity to give your money to if you fail. So for me, I chose to give $100.00 a week if I do not meet my weight loss goals. Oh- and that $100 dollars goes to Donald Trump.

Talk about motivating me to stick to a goal! 1) It would be very punishing for me to lose $100.00 a week and 2) It would absolutely kill me to give that to Trump. So the breakdown:

You set a goal, assign a referee (or work on your honor), and choose somewhere your money goes in the case that you do not stick to your contract. Every week, you (or your referee) report your results and either keep or lose your money.

So tell me what you think. Would you bet on your own behavior change?

Public Sharing Accountability PLUS Money-Making Opportunity

I want to talk today about public sharing and accountability. Maybe some of you are following me on Facebook or IG. Maybe some of you were following me and then decided against it because I post too many workout updates or food pics. Side note: I never understood the point in unfollowing someone who celebrates their progress. Why not celebrate one another? Here’s the thing:

Public sharing can hold us accountable for our behavior change goals.

For me, it has been getting back into running. Before I was pregnant, I ran several times a week- maybe 3-4 miles each time. I probably (no data! Eek!) clocked in about 15-18 miles a week on average. During my pregnancy, I was very ill. Then I was very large with an 11 pound baby, so running got put on the back burner. Another side note: I definitely think people can continue to run and workout through pregnancy. I kept walking, but running was not an option for me.

Post-pregnancy, I am having difficulty with consistency. Some might say that is because I am a single mom to an infant while seeing clients 2 days a week and engaging in indirect hours, oh and in my last semester of grad school, AND doing contract work on the side. And having this blog. (I am just tired typing about it!)

However, I would say (as I always say) that I just need the right behavior plan. This is where public sharing has come into play for me. When I post my workouts, people can see them. You may not care or just scroll through, but in my head if people can see, I have to perform. And of course- there’s an app for that!

I use MapMyFitness, but there are other apps out there that track your runs or other fitness endeavors. They generally give you time, distance, and a visual representation of your route. After you finish, you can share your results to various social media pages.

Added Bonus: You can add the Achievemint App and sync it with all of your fitness apps as well as your Health App (if you have an iPhone). You get points for different health behaviors such as working out, weighing yourself, and keeping up with your nutrition. Once you get a certain number of points, you can trade those points in for cash! Get healthy and earn money at the same time! That’s a whole other incentive!

I would like to take this up another level (as I always seem to do) with some fitness challenge accountability groups. I think that will take public sharing to a while new level. My first will start soon- in December 2016! If you are interested, drop me a message. 🙂

 

Either way, let me know what you think. Is public sharing a motivator for you?